I remember when the term “helicopter parent” came out. It classified a group of parents who hovered over their children all the time. Never letting them have any space, always in view. Watching what they were doing, ready to step in and help as needed. I remember thinking (and writing) that I was ok with being a helicopter parent and that I was going to “hover like no other.” It was my job to look out for my kids. I wasn’t just going to go fly my helicopter somewhere else. Looking back, I’ve hovered more at some seasons than others. There have been times when I have learned that I needed to give my children space, but I also always wanted them to know that I was close by if they needed me. I never saw that as negative. THAT’S MY JOB! With working, busy schedules and commitments that families have, why would I back away during the precious time that we did have together? Why would I ever want them to think I wasn’t there?
Fast forward to present day, and the latest categorization defined as “snowplow parents.” These are thought to be parents who remove all obstacles from the paths of their children. They get involved in their issues and step in before the kids can learn to speak up for themselves. They go out of their way to provide the best opportunities, and sometimes even do their work for them to make sure that they succeed. They are making the world too easy for their kids, their kids will never survive in real life. These parents need to give their children more free rein, and just back off. I say – give parents a break.
Parenting is hard work.
It’s not always easy.
We don’t always get it right.
I struggle with these classifications. I’ve never looked at another parent and thought of them in terms of a piece of mechanical equipment that flies or removes snow. I also know many parents. In my job I have worked alongside lots of families and while I haven’t met any perfect ones – I sure have met many doing their best for their kids. There are incredible parents and kids all around us, some dealing with issues and struggles that we will never see. Every family is different. No family is perfect. Some families are challenging. I can put my own family in all three of those categories at different times. (or sometimes all at the same time!)
Getting back to snowplows. I don’t know about you, but in my town while the snowplow does come and remove the snow for us, I wouldn’t say that it solves all of the problems. In fact, often after the snowplow comes – it still leaves snow at the end of the driveway that has to be removed. The snowplow never gets it all. If I apply that analogy to parenting – then I think I’m ok to be a snowplow parent. Bring on the snow! I want to help my kids move things in their life they are struggling with but I also want them to learn independence. That’s the leftover snow that they have to move themselves. I’m the plow but they still need a shovel. I’m going to drive them to school because we live in Canada and sometimes it’s crazy cold! Other times, they’ll have to walk. I’m also going to encourage them in activities and try to provide opportunities for them, provided that they take it seriously. If they don’t, then we’ll stop. If they have a situation that they are not mature enough to handle, I’m going to help them handle it. I’ll still encourage them to have a voice because I want them to be able to speak up for themselves but I’m not going to leave them when they need help.
The snow can get high.
I can help move it out of the way.
But get your shovel, there’s still some left for you to get.
Instead of labelling our styles and creating a movement that points out what we are doing wrong, let’s celebrate what we are doing right. Let’s identify a positive type of parenting that produces healthy kids and promote that instead of making parents feel even more inadequate than they already do. Instead of predicting scary outcomes for children and families, let’s share tools and strategies that strengthen and build up.
I’m going to keep “plowing.”
But, we’ve got a shovel outside the door.
Together we’ll clear the snow.